Whisky Review – Glenmorangie The Quinta Ruban

This bottle was one of my purchases early in My Whisky Journey ™.  I had just taken my car to get an oil change, which for some unexplained reason lasted north of an hour and a half.  On the way out of the dealership, I opted to veer into the liquor store right next door.  I was determined to pick out a nice Scotch, but really had no idea what to pick.  While sitting in the dealership waiting room, avoiding their free donuts, I had stumbled across a listing of the awards given at the most recent San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  Figuring that this was as good a resource as any, I took the award listing into the store and basically walked the whisky aisle, trying to figure out which bottles in stock were award winners.  Eventually, I came across The Quinta Ruban from The Glenmorangie.  The packaging looked all classy-like, and it was a gold medal winner!  Which is like the third best medal you can win.  Not bad.  I Googled a couple of reviews, which were mostly positive, and pulled the trigger.

While it is my policy to give virtually no information in my reviews, I’ll note that the Quinta Ruban is a 12 year old whisky that is finished in ruby port casks.  It is part of their “Extra Matured” range, along with the Lasanta (Oloroso casks) and the Nectar D’Or (Sauternes).  OK.  Information over.

Nose – The nose starts out with significant wood and caramel sweetness, almost close to a Bourbon.  I also get something like a corn muffin and some earthiness.  That is some mix.  Finishing up with peppery spice.  And is that nutmeg?

Taste – Rich and lip-smacking.  I get a lot of dark fruit – cherries, raisins maybe?  And, of course, you really get that taste of port in the back of your mouth.  I’ve heard people talk about mint in this, but I totally don’t get it.  Little Bitty Bits picks up a taste that reminds her of Brachs caramels.

Finish – Shorter than expected.  I find it interesting that the flavors tend to evaporate at the finish, leaving you with a (pleasant) heat.

With a splash of water, I find that the Quinta Ruban doesn’t really show different flavors (as many whiskies do), but rather just becomes a bit smoother, which is perfectly tasty.

Score – B+.  As I said above, I bought this bottle awhile back.  In its early stages, I wasn’t exactly tearing through it, but I was sort of trying to train myself to enjoy Scotch.  When I got it down to about a quarter left, I made sure not to have any more without writing down my notes.  Well, somehow, the bottle managed to sit untouched into April, when I picked it up with notebook in hand.  What do you know, this time around, I was loving it.  I think this was definitely a sign of palate evolution (a topic which I will touch on in some depth in my next review).

That said, the few times I tasted the last quarter of the bottle, my score thoughts have been between an A- and a B-.  It seems that this is really one that depends on my mood.

Other, better reviews:

Official Notes from The Glenmorangie

The Malt Imposter

The Malt Review

The Whisky Wire

$44.

Quick Review – Bowmore Legend

The other day, Little Bitty Bits and I were at our local upscale pizza joint (the kind that serves individual pizzas with fancy toppings).  The place has a little single malt selection that isn’t the worst ever – Glenlivet 12, Glenlivet 15, Glenmorangie Original, Macallan 12, Lagavulin 16 and the Bowmore Legend.  Now, by this visit, I had tried each of those whiskies aside from the the last two.  And from my reading up on whisky in the last few months, here is what I know about them: they are both Islays, the Lagavulin is beloved by many as a great peaty whisky, and the Legend is known for being one of the cheapest good whiskies around.

Faced with this decision, you have to understand two things about me.  First, I am a wimp.  The murderer’s row of Laphroig, Ardbeg, Caol Ila and the like scare me.  Well, they don’t scare me scare me.  I just have a difficult time seeing myself enjoying something that people describe as having the taste of campfire.  Second, I am cheap.  Most of the other pours at this place had run me $9 or $10, and I was hoping to maybe give the wallet a slight break (in the end, though, I think they still charge $8.50 for the Legend).

So as the post title shows, I went with the Legend.  Here are my notes.  They are short and sweet, because drinking this whisky is a pretty short and sweet experience.  On the nose, this reminds me a lot of Johnny Walker Black – a little hit of smoke and some citrus-y sweetness in back.  On the palate, it is very light bodied – almost watery.  Again, you get a little puff of smoke and then a light taste of honey.  Then the show’s over.

Reading back, it sounds like I might have been a little too harsh.  This is a pretty straightforward whisky, not a peat monster.  And it easily passes my “are you pouring it down the drain” test.  It is just … simple.  But for $26 a bottle, I wouldn’t fault anyone on a budget for using it as their go-to Tuesday night sipper.

Really, though, the whole reason for posting this review is so that I can show you this video that I recently stumbled across.  I was on Youtube, checking out some videos by the great Ralfy, and I somehow found an additional review of Bowmore Legend.  I just couldn’t have been more entertained.  Enjoy:

My favorite part of blogging is when some of my visitors talk whisky in the comments.  Almost to a person, they know more than me about the subject, so it is a great learning experience.  So I’ll open it up to you – what are your picks for great whisky values?

I’ll start with a few picks of my own.  Two bottles that I quite enjoy for under $35 locally are Glenmorangie Original and Old Pulteney 12 (WW reviews both upcoming ) (and actually, if I had to settle on just one value bottle, OP12 might be the one).  A couple of dollars higher, and I’m coming to realize that I am all about Highland Park 12 (at $41).

For another data point, we can look to Ryan’s Value Whiskey Reviews.  For his highest value rating, he also lists the Highland Park 12, and also highlights Talisker $10, at $48 per.  What say you, good readers?

Hoodwinked! Update

A quick note to update my dear readership on my travails in the case of the Jameson bottle switcharoo.  Well, on her next visit to the liquor store in question, Little Bitty Bits gently mentioned what happened to the guy working there, carefully avoiding blaming the store or asking for any recompense.  To his credit, the guy immediately told her to bring the bottle back in, and said that he’d tell the salesperson and see what he could do.

Fast forward to this week, our next visit to that store, and as soon as we walked through the door, the gentleman working there hustled into the back room.  He came out and explained that he spoke to the salesperson and was able to offer a trade: a bottle of Highland Park 12 with a torn label.

While not quite an equal exchange in terms of price (in my hood, HP 12 goes for $3 less than Jameson 12), I was eager to accept that bottle.  HP 12, as I noted earlier, was the whisky that really made me think that maybe, just maybe, there is something to this Scotch thing.  And in the months since I’ve finished that bottle, I know for a fact that my palate has changed significantly.  So I’m eager to try this one again.  Keep your eye out for that review.

Speaking of upcoming reviews, it looks like the upcoming few will be Scotches – Compass Box Asyla, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, and Old Pulteney 12.  Keep your eyes peeled for those.

Finally, my latest purchase was the much-heralded Talisker 10.  It is currently in the box, awaiting the kicking of one of its predecessors.  I can’t wait to try it.

My Whiskey Journey

I’ve always been a big guy.  In high school, I was tall and chunkier than most of my classmates (looking back at pictures, though, I certainly don’t look overweight).  In college, I put on the freshman fifteen and didn’t look back.  The same continued through law school, and then I entered the real world.  Real sedentary.  My weight maintained a steady climb for years.  This type of increase is perfect for your stock portfolio, but horrible for your health.

This past December, I made the cliched decision to start a diet in the new year.  I spent all kinds of time researching, and ultimately decided that the choice for me was what is known as the Primal or Paleo diet.  Without getting into detail, the concept is to eat good whole foods.  Lots of meat, veggies and fruits.  At the same time, I cut out all grains and added sugars.  (Side note: if you are interested, I’ve lost 22 lbs in under two months.  A good site for further info is Mark’s Daily Apple.)

Why mention my new way of eating?  Because it demanded a new way of drinking as well.  My beloved beer had to go.  I had grown quite fond of relaxing with a nice IPA.  A Victory Hop Devil if at all possible.  But now my new diet overlords were telling me that drinking that beer was about the same as eating a couple of slices of bread – a serious no-no in Paleoland.

Ahhh, memories.

But I still needed a Friday night relaxation lubricant, and I had two options: wine and whiskey.  (Side note #2: the spelling of “whisk(e)y” has been explained repeatedly.  My plan will be to use “whisky” for fun brown drinks from Scotland and Canada, and “whiskey” for fun brown drinks from elsewhere.  I chose the added “e” in my blog title because I’m from a “whiskey” country.  And also because “whiskywriter” was already taken on WordPress.)  I had recently done some experimentation with wine while living in San Francisco, and it just didn’t captivate me.  But whiskey intrigued.

The reason whiskey is so intriguing is the fanatacism of its fans.  People talk about their favorite Scotches the way they talk about their children, but with slighlty greater enthusiasm.  Run a couple of Google searches – there are easily 50 outstanding whiskey blogs (some linked to in the sidebar of this blog), if not two or three times that amount.  These people are devoted.  Also, whiskey (and Scotch in particular) is just so manly.  As a man, I’m supposed to eat bloody steaks, savor a good Scotch, and smoke stinky cigars.  Well, with Paleo, my steak intake is through the roof.  It is time to up my Scotch savoring as well (I’ll never be a cigar smoker).

At the start of the year and the new diet, my interest in whiskey had already lead me to purchase (and sample) two bottles – Highland Park 12 and Buffalo Trace Bourbon.  My impressions at the time were that the Buffalo Trace was outstanding (especially considering its sub-$25 price tag) – smooth, spicy and just eminently drinkable.  My impression of the HP 12 (shield your eyes now, whisky lovers) was that it was just very difficult to get into.  I wasn’t immediately into that level of smoke (and I’m still far from a smoke lover).  Little Thunder, who generally sticks to inexpensive Shirazes, opined that the Highland Park “tastes like hot dogs.”  And I couldn’t totally disagree.

It grew on me.

Once I started focusing on these in earnest, I just needed to try more.  I needed variety.  I went on something of a buying spree (which really hasn’t stopped yet).  I made impulse buys of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban and 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon.  After some research, I decided that I had to dip my toe into the Irish pool, so I got a bottle of Jameson 12.  With two Scotches and two bourbons but just one Irish, I decided that I couldn’t take the asymmetry, so I picked up a Red Breast 12.  My shelf looked pretty good at that point.

Soon after, at the liquor store with Little Thunder, I saw that they had Bushmill’s Black Bush on sale, so I picked up a bottle of that (but put it in the cabinet and out of view, for symmetry purposes).  I eventually finished the HP 12 and the Buffalo Trace, and replaced them with Old Pulteney 12 and Eagle Rare, respectively.

Before the HP 12 was kicked, though, I had an epiphany.  I just had a night where everything came together.  I was in the right mood, I was reading the right book, and the dram was just behaving perfectly.  The whisky’s flavors sang.  It had that beautiful mouthfeel and long finish (at least to my inexperienced taste) and I just sat there and realized that I needed more, more, more.

After some time with two each of Scotch, bourbon and Irish, I had to give Scotch its due.  Scotch is just too popular, and too varied from whisky to whisky, and there are just too many different Scotches to try.  Plus, the HP 12 had me drooling for a similar experience.  So I decided to up the ratio to four Scotches, two bourbons and two Irish whiskeys.  I studied a bit, and this time opted for a couple of drams that appeared to be a little more beginner-friendly: The Balvenie DoubleWood and a Compass Box Asyla (I wanted to include a blend in my four).

So I now stand with the following: Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban, Old Pulteney 12, Balvenie DoubleWood, Compass Box Asyla, Red Breast 12, Black Bush (I’ve finished the Jameson 12), 1792 bourbon, and Eagle Rare.  In all, a decent start to a collection.

Each of those whiskeys will be reviewed on this page in the coming weeks and months.  I’ll also touch on other topics.  My use of water in whiskey.  My future whiskey-related purchases (i.e., glassware and books).  My whiskey wish list (already a good 8 or 9 bottles long for Scotch alone).  My desire to make my whiskey hobby more social.  The seeming dearth of whiskey clubs or good whiskey bars in the Philadelphia area.  And on and on.

Finally, a word on Jameson 12.  People debate what is the best Scotch to get a whisky rookie hooked.  I’d offer up Jameson 12.  Obviously, I know this isn’t Scotch, but boy is it accessible.  So smooth with (for me) a perfect sweetness and just a little complexity.  Expensive for Irish, yes, but less than the great majority of single malts.  I may look back a year from now and cringe when reading this, but I would drink that stuff morning, noon and night, eight days a week.  Not just that, but it truly girded my belief that I need to go ahead and see what is out there in the world of great whiskey.

Maybe I'm crazy?

That’s where I stand.  I’m obviously a rookie’s rookie.  Join me as my journey as my tastes evolve and I, you know, get less stupid.  Hopefully.

Cheers,

WW